tv [untitled] May 18, 2012 5:00am-5:30am EDT
if you do this and you do this and you do this, my papers will back you. it just never happened. and i also think, as i went through some of the issues, tony went through and the government went through these issues on their merits. >> now i come to the issue of an implied tradeoff. this is paragraph 13 of your statement. you deal there with the son in 1997, but before i come to that, do you agree with mr. price's view, and this is mr. lawrence price, that plans to limit cross-media ownership in a way which would have restricted murdoch's empire be quietly dropped within the empire prior
to murdoch's visit in 1995? >> we changed the policy, we changed the position. >> it was noisily dropped, then. >> i think lance was trying to feed into and play up to the idea of some sort of conspiracy. there was none. tony blair wasn't totally keen on the cross-media ownership policy we had up until then. i said in my statement what his general position was in relation to cross-media ownership. >> so the attribution of cause and effect which mr. price sees in the sequence of events, you don't believe is correct? >> i don't, no. >> did you have any discussions with mr. blair about the change in cross-media ownership policy? >> i must have done. i must have done. >> did he mention in any way the impact to change what the
existing policy would have had on the media press? >> not that i recall, but it certainly would have been a factor. it would have been a factor. >> so the change in policy was beneficial to the murdoch press, and that was part of the thinking, was it? >> no. what i mean by a part of his thinking would be -- i think they said today any policymaking process, part of your thinking will be how this will be perceived, written up and so forth. but tony blair's view on cross-media ownership was he was not in favor of changes in the position on cross-media ownership that would lead to the close of titles. he was in favor of opening up the market to new media owners. it was the principal policy position as one we held on john
smi smith. >> can i deal with the son piece in 1997 which you refer to in paragraph 13. >> yeah. >> i think we saw this with mr. murdoch himself, the actual piece which mr. blair writes shortly before the 1997 election. it was in march 1997 about our commitment to a referendum on the euro, you say. it was made clear to me by the editor that if mr. blair were to emphasize the point, there would be no entering the euro without a certain referendum but the understanding of certain people's fears was likely to be the final piece of the jigsaw before mr. murdoch agreed to pay for back labor. you describe that as purely a
question of rhetoric, but wasn't that specifically a matter of policy or at least something which mr. blair did which he would not otherwise have perhaps wanted to do? >> no. the policy was already set. the policy was set. and we did have a discussion -- i remember we did have a discussion about whether it was sensible to do this piece at that time. and as i say -- i go on to say that it was fantastic and irritating on one level that we had to go through these kind of routines but with an election looming, we would be daft not to try it. so i don't think we did change policy. i will admit to being a little bit queasy about -- i think the headline was "why i love the pound," so i was a bit queasy about that. i will be honest about that. but i don't think on the policy anything was ever traded with murdoch or any other media
orange. so there is an example of where the sun, mass selling newspaper coming up to an election campaign, is giving us half a page to set out our issue that is important, probably more important to the paper than its reeders, to be absolutely frank, and we took that opportunity. as i say, i think we would have been crazy not to. >> you have to remind me, mr. campbell, was it part of the manifesto in 1997 that there would be a referendum before the united kingdom entered the euro? >> yes. i think it was one of the five pledges. >> i'm not saying this is ancient history because it isn't, but it is 15 years ago and we're trying to remember. the article in "the sun" which i think was in mid-march, 1997, that obviously postdated the manifesto, didn't it? >> by this time, everyone knew
we were committed to the referendum, i'm pretty sure of that. >> so even if the manifesto had not been published, it would have been written six weeks or so before the general election because we know the general election was in 1997. >> i would have to check exactly when was the manifesto. it was published right after this because the campaign had not been announced, but i don't think we were announcing anything new in this piece at all. >> okay. so you were to characterize what happened as perhaps slightly irritating, if not causing a degree of discomfort but amounting to no more than rhetoric because it didn't amount to a policy change, if i correctly summarized it? >> yes. also, could i say there, there
may well have been positions related to "the sun" or other newspapers where he might have set out policy changes and any policy change he might have been communicating through the press. this is an area where i say we're meeting him with rhetoric, and it didn't, therefore, there was no sense of any tradeoff implied or unimplied. >> the media set issue -- >> yep. >> -- was covered on mr. murdoch, and it was clear that mr. prody made the call at the end of the day. can i just ask you about onery ent -- one entry in your diary, page 2, number 238.
>> yeah. >> you didn't fear him coming to him about me, but the relationship with murdoch, the political knives were out for you at that time as well, weren't they? >> they were. >> i'm not sure this inquiry need go into that. i'm more concerned with the underlying point. and then you say, and he -- that's mr. blair -- didn't fancy a sustained set of questions about whether murdoch lobbied him. >> yeah. >> so that's the power phrase of the conversation you had with mr. blair, is it? >> yeah. >> why did he fancy such a sustained set of questions? >> because the -- i think i've quoted in my statement, the -- what i said at the briefing on this, that the -- i said in a number 10 briefing, the
conversation covered a range of issues. it had been agreed that neither side would brief on it. this had been honored. the ft should not use an official that was wrong. if asked, this did not stand up and the way it was presented was simply wrong. it did lead to a frenzy, this one, and i think we possibly could have handled it differently. the call from prody was not this. it was something completely different and prody asked us not to brief on it. the ft ran this story, and i refused to accept -- this was intervention as they were approaching it. i think what tony blair is saying is that he was worried -- actually, that was -- standinging up in the house of
commons, the sustained set of questions is about why is this not intervention? i think he found that difficult. i said in my statement i was less concerned because i thought my statement would be orders of the prime minister reflected that likelihood. indeed, the briefing of 1994 to 1998. my statement did not amount to full denial at which i responded, it was not that kind of statement. it was true, it was ain't full denial. >> maybe he was basing it on how it appeared. >> by that time it was a full-blown, 24-carat frenzy. it's one of those that's tricky, because rupert murdoch had mentioned this company to the prime minister, and the prime minister, as i recall, we did have a discussion about whether there was anything with him raising it. he didn't raise it until he came
onto something else. he mentioned it, and prody said words to the effect that murdoch is wasting his time, and i don't think it went any further. >> but the origin of all of this was an express request by mr. murdoch presumably made to the prime minister to intervene in a certain way. >> i think he was trying to establish whether -- words to the effect he was wasting his time trying to get into the italian marketplace. >> even if it wasn't to intervene in a way that would necessarily produce direct results, it was to ascertain how the italian marketplace looked should he put his toe into the water? that's what it amounted to, wasn't it? >> i wasn't privy to the call that he had, and nor until this story brolue up, was i privy to the call made to mr. prody.
but i stood in that line of pretty lengthy briefings which i refuse to accept that was an intervention the way it was being presented by the times. that's where the difficulty came n because the press said it was an intervention, and i can see why, but sometimes these situations, you hold a line, and that's what we did. and in the end, nothing came of it. >> it would have been an intervention if mr. murdoch was seeking an express regulatory favor, which he wasn't, but he was seeking information from the italians, wasn't he? >> i know you're going to be seeing mr. blair, and, you know, you best ask him because he had the conversation. my sense of it would be that he simply said i'm interested in this italian company, do you think i'm wasting my time? and i don't think it was anything more than that. >> the reference to helping a
british company was not completely accurate since we're talking about mr. murdoch asking about an italian company? >> more accurate, this is not a transcript, it's an account of the briefing. we're talking about business with british interests. >> the other area we need to look at, and you cover it in paragraph 15 of your statement, is media policy generally. you do say in the third sentence of paragraph 15, ironically, the only area where i believe we may have fallen far of this relates to the area of the press itself. >> uh-huh. >> and then you refer to the current government. are you suggesting that through fear of a hostile reaction, possibly even attacks, the
government between 2007 and 2010 was shy of taking on the press and bringing in necessary press performance in terms of regulation? is that the thesis with which you say might have some validity? >> i wouldn't date it as far back as 1997, but i think as time wore on, i think a view developed generally in government, certainly with the prime minister and other senior ministers, there was a real problem. and i think that if -- i certainly, as i said in my statement, if you think it's a real problem, then we should do something about it. and part of the thinking is to why not do something about it. i can think of two main reasons. one is the one that the prime minister has talked about before, that actually the public just wouldn't understand because one of the lines were being
launched by the presses that we had in our pocket. not true, but that's one of the lines. the public will be confused as to why we're suddenly saying this is a problem, and the second thing is the public had elected us to do all sorts of things. press regulation wasn't one of them. so as it were, those were the points of principle. i think there was one political point of pragmatism. tony blair would take the view that it wasn't particularly sensible. we argued about it over several years. >> we can quite see, mr. campbell, if we go back to 1997 which, of course, was before the death of princess diana, that included anything in the labor party manifesto which included government regulation reform might have been a bit ambitious, but others may comment on that. by the time we get to 2001, and in particular, 2005, there was a
possibility, wasn't there, to include it within the government's selective program; is that correct? >> well, there was always the possibility. as to whether there was any likelihood, i suspect there wasn't. but some of us were arguing there should have been. >> when you refer to concerns about what the media culture was -- that's the second sentence of paragraph 16 -- >> yeah. >> can we be clear what the analysis is? it may be set to fall in two parts. is one the political analysis, which is the culture of negativity, the fusion of news and comments, the press driving the news agenda, all the matters which are of deep concern to you, could we put it to one side and the wider concerns of ethics of the press, intrusion, breach
of privacy. i know the two concerns ov overlapped to some extent, but they're more concerned about the interest of individuals. was your analysis, which is what you refer to in the third line, did it embrace both those concerns or any one of those concerns. >> both of them. and i think, actually, my first witness statement sets out when i talk about summary of the debit side, news values and whether somebody's true accounts make a good story in which providence does not give significance to the news story but whether it fits the -- and a culture dominated by the media themselves which is an inaccurate distortion of
practices continued with impunity and a culture in which any attempt to check the role of the media is met with denunciation of concern and the threat. what i meant by the culture, i suppose i would throw in there the culture celebrity. >> it's fair that your first statement covers that. >> yes. >> and you're not identifying, are you, a certain section of the press, or are you? >> the culture, i think, is where the center of gravity within the culture has moved to. i think it covers the broadcasters, i think it covers the broad tabloids as well but just to different and varying degrees. >> we notice mr. mendelson's view, and we've provided it through the piece in "the guardian" which he wrote in july of last year under tab 7.
he says, the truth is your principle was involved. we simply chose to be a coward because we were too fearful to do otherwise. and then he said he took up where blair and brown left off. since we know what happened in may of 2010, do you agree with bi his view? >> he said there was no issue of principle and priority. i think there were issues of principle and priority, which i referred to a moment ago. but i do accept that part of the thinking of the prime minister and some of his colleagues was that to take on all of the press at a time when the public thought we got a pretty good deal was politically not very sensible. >> it might have been difficult to have approached this on a
cross-party basis at any time between 1997 and certainly 2010 unless you are to identify the short window of opportunity which happened after the tragic death of princess diannandiana;t right? >> i think it would have been impossible to get that. >> what about the short window of opportunity? >> i'm not sure there was one. he was of the view the short window of opportunity was the same day that the bank of england gained independence right after the election, but i think that would have been difficult for obvious reasons. even all the focus there was on the media post diana's death, i don't think there was that kind of political appetite. this debate is only happening
because of this inquiry, and this inquiry is only happening because of the specific set of issues that led to it. but these cultural issues have been underlying for some time. i said in my statement the media and politics have not really faced up to that. >> do you detect an appetite now to do that? >> no. if i'm being frank. i thought that the michael gove speech to the press gallery was part of the political strategy. i don't think that david cameron particularly wants to have to deal with this, i don't think he wanted to set up the inquiry. he had to do it in the end. i think it would be very difficult for him not to go along with whatever recommendations or at least a very large part of the recommendations the inquiry pro
du prodo you spro i hope there is something produced by what you laid out earlier, but i doubt they will do anything vis-a-vis the next election. so i would think there is some status for change, but i wouldn't know the state of it. i think there's quite a big appetite for the people who are no longer there. >> the general topic of pro forma the press, see if this recalls your recollection. we first discussed how we could remedy the failed relationship
between the media and politics in 2002, and we even considered putting the pcc on a statutory basis and creating a rite of pli that exists in other countries. do you remember that? >> i do. >> he is referring to the discussions you were having? >> yep. >> then he says in 2003, i -- and that's obviously mr. powell -- commissioned ed in the policies unit to start working on royal commissions limits on ownership and the privacy law. do you recall that? >> i do. >> you discussed the issue back and forth the next three years, and the attorney felt it wasn't right to speak out, in part because the press would always have the last word. as it was they who would report and interpret what he said. did i krecorrectly summarize it? >> yes. >> in 2006, blair told me he
would consider putting aside the queen's feelings on the subject, but he didn't. and when he finally did make a speech in 2007, that was the famous failed speech in june of 2007, it perhaps didn't receive the attention it deserved, mr. powell said it was too late. is that a fair sort of prospectus of what was happening? >> yes. and i think i said in my witness statement, a political lead, even when they're the prime minister and even when they're in a powerful position like tony blair, was for most part of his apprentices apprenticeship. you do have to take into account the feelings of your colleagues. i was acting on this for some time, john prescott to an extent was, but it wasn't something the prime minister was feeling huge
pressure. as i said, there were a large number of issues in which he was feeling huge pressure. i think the other thing to bear in mind is it's not unreasonable for politicians to take political factors. for example, if he had gone down this road, they would have been certainly entitled to use that to get much better sense of support from the press, and there was also the whole issue of many of those books that sometimes a troubled relationship with gordon brown. that would have been a factor, too. >> what can you say, mr. campbell, on the pass-through of parliament what became the communication act of 2003. that's obviously a complicated piece of legislation, but it passed the parliament at a time when you were still in post, as it were, before your
retirement -- >> yeah. but i don't recall being involved to a huge extent in the detail of policy discussion. and i do remember tessa jou, who i think was secretary of state at the time, when she took the job, she wanted it to be very, very clear she was going to be in charge of that process, and i do also remember her wanting to be absolutely clear that she wasn't, as it were, inheriting any kind of implied or unimplied deals with anybody in the media empires. i'm sure tess will speak for herself, but i do remember that. >> so to be clear about that, she was concerned that as part of the inheritance, there might have been some sort of deal, as you say. she wanted to be sure that there wasn't such a deal. did she have conversations with you about it or conversations
which were in your hearing? >> i think she had conversations both with -- most importantly with tony blair, but i had been wanting to know if a deal had been done. >> was she wanting to know if a deal had been done with mr. murdoch? >> yeah. she just didn't want to go into an area where a conclusion had already been reached based on whatever. and tony blair was able to give her that assurance. >> in your hearing? >> well, i know that he did.
>> one description was to remove that from foreign ownership. is that something you were privy to? >> no. although i was part of tony blair's strategy and media relations, i didn't see myself as a significant voice within the media policy debate, and i can't remember what else was going on at that time. lots of things, but i don't remember being too involved in the policy discussions on the communications act. >> when the bill was going through the laws, it encountered some difficulty, and i think lord putnam was the center of the opposition to it. did you have any discussions with him about that? >> i can't remember. i don't think so, but i may have done -- i can remember -- what months in 2003 are we talking about, do you know? >> i think this may have been in -- no, it would have been in early 2003 as it was passing
through the lords. it took some considerable time for this act to become law. >> it's hard to say after september 11 the year before i was very, very primarily engaged in foreign policy. i do remember having a conversation with mr. putnam about something else, which was an education policy issue, and he may have raised it, but i can't guarantee that. i was aware of his views, though. i think he was expressing them publicly. >> is there anything further that you can help us with the passage of that act, particularly the concessions which were made in the lords at the end of the day. go back, please, to paragraphs 51 to 53 of your statement.